Don’t you just love going through old photo albums?

Don’t you just love going through old photo albums? Or is it just me?

We are a generation with a few printed pictures from childhood and a whole lot of digital photographs tucked away in some corner of a computer.

We have become so digitalized that nearly everything that has meaning to us is in Bit form. Instead of photo prints in albums we have digital pictures on our computers. Physical books have been replaced by kindle, Birthday cards have been replaced by gifs and letters by DMs and whatsapp messages.

May be I’m just old school but, don’t you miss the smell of a new book, or the joy a letter from a pen pal or a loved one brings you, or the inevitable smile that creeps up on you when you open up a birthday card from your cousin or best of all the feeling you get when you go through a physical photo album and the anticipation and excitement you get when you first bring the prints home from the studio? I surely do!

So guess who’s going to get a few pictures printed soon?

P.S- how is it that back in the “Film role” days we all looked good in one take and yet today we can hardly find a good click from the 10-20 clicks we take in the same spot in the same pose. Boggles my mind!

Why Living in a Foreign Country Alone was the Best Thing That Happened to Me

“It’s going to be okay!!,

You will be fine!,

You will survive! (I hope)”

This was the mantra I was constantly chanting to myself when I started to live alone in India for the very first time. Trust me when I say, these words however much I said again and again to myself, it DID NOT HELP.. It was the first thing I told myself the moment I woke up and every second thereafter, but in no way did it help the pain, the homesickness or the loneliness that I felt the first couple of weeks.

Even though I had lived previously in India with my family for quite a few years, it was different this time. I was alone and in a different state. And states in India are different from each other like night and day. So waking up to this new life was hard. Every waking moment I felt like something tight was wrapped around my body. I felt crippled, not knowing what to do to get by. I had to tell myself one step at a time, every day. At first I hated living away from home, away from my family away from that cozy spot I call my comfy corner.. I loathed every minute of it, I was counting days to go back. I clearly remember walking to college from my PG counting days on my phone and consoling myself. I was angry at myself for taking such a drastic decision to come so far from home. I would cry, lament and do all the dramatic ish you do when you feel extreme discomfort at an emotional level.

Only if I knew then that in a few months’ time when I was finally settled I would love every bit of this new life… that I would cherish every second I spent in the beautiful country that became my second home.

Living alone for the first time is Hard…harder than anything you can imagine. Especially hard when you’re in a country where everything from the language to soap brand is different. You become so accustomed to being cuddled up in your comfort zone that it becomes hard to wrap your brain around the fact that it’s okay to live away from your “normal”!

Today looking back, nearly 11 years later I am honestly so proud of myself for getting through the first few months ( Not like I had any other choice, but still) I wish I could go back and tell my old scared self “this is the best part of your life, stop hoping to magically go home and start living in the moment”

Apart from the knowledge I got in my study field, the amount of real life experiences and life lessons I’ve learnt are endless. Something I doubt I would have gotten if I stayed back at home.

I learnt how the world works and how people work. Best of all though this adventure I finally learnt how to dance to my own beat, to accept me for who I really am!

Coming from a south Asian family you’re expected to be a certain way whether you like it or not. It’s safe to live that way trust me.. But it’s not for everyone.. It’s not for me.. I’m an odd one out.. the miss fit.. and living alone made me realize this. Made me realize that living within that frame was not for me.. And also that it’s okay to be the way I am.

Also through meeting so many people from different all corners of the globe, I learnt that people around the world are not as scary as they are made to seem. I got to meet the best people I have ever met while living in Pune. All kinds of people, from many walks of life, some good some bad. Also through the process of living with people from different countries and different areas, I learnt that we are all human and all these superficial barriers we have created are not worth it!

Learnt that there is beauty in everything. it’s just how you look at it. Living alone makes you appreciate the small things that usually go unnoticed and you start to appreciate life a little bit better. You appreciate the things that make you feel at home, you appreciate your family and best of all you appreciate your new surrounding and the new people that are slowly coming in to your life. And you slowly but surely start to understand and embrace Change!

Out of all the life lessons I’ve gotten though this experience the best is the knowledge I got about how to deal with fellow humans- good and bad. You don’t get to choose who you associate when you’re in the real world. And by dealing with all different people one on one without a safety net to fall back on, you learn how to read people a whole lot better. I’m not perfect at this still but I think I’m way better at this than I would have been if I hadn’t lived alone.

The fear of living alone is just a phantom that our brains have developed. I’m not an expert in living alone or living abroad but all those years I’ve been thrown in to different places under different situations even as a child has shaped me to be who I am.

Today I’m back home settled in a comfy zone but I can’t help myself from craving for another chance to move somewhere else and experience everything that comes with it. I crave to wake up in a place where I get to challenge myself, and as cliché as it may sound, find a better side of me. Weirdly enough I crave that fear and that anxiety I felt all those years ago because all those different feelings good or bad made me feel alive.  

The Great Indian Railway

During one random conversation, my friend told me how obsessed (for lack of better wording) her husband is with Indian trains and the experience that comes with it. He was so intrigued by what he had heard about them that he was pestering her to go to India on their honeymoon just to get a taste of the train experience.

His prime interest- to shove his way in to an overcrowded Indian train!. Would have been quite the honeymoon I must say!!

I’ve had my share of train journeys across India (I was a student living on a tight budget, what did you expect?). I’ve travelled from north to south and west to east, I’ve practically lived on trains for days at an end. I’ve seen the landscape change from the shores of Chenni to Delhi and alongside I’ve seen the cultural change. I’ve seen the language change from Marathi to Bengali and along with it the flavor of food.

I personally have a love-hate relationship with the great Indian railway. It can be the best mode of travel through India and sometimes the worst and in some cases both at the same time.

  • Safety

Haha!! There is no such thing! You decide to take an overnight train? Kid you’re on your own! Unless you travel in first class, having your luggage safe, unattended is a myth. You better have your luggage chained up at all times. Yes! Literally! You can buy these thick metal chains that I’ve never seen in any other country I’ve traveled to, from the train station to serve as your safety companion. You’ll find hooks at the bottom of your seat through which you can run these chains to fasten your luggage. Keep your valuables like your passport very close to you, Fanny packs are ideal for this.

I’m not trying to inflict fear in you but it is what it is! Not just when you’re on the train, but you should be mindful even when you’re on the platform. You will not know from where or when someone would come and take what is yours! You lose concentration for a minute or two and your belongings are gone.

  • Food

Food on trains are surprisingly good! As long as you have a strong digestive system that is!  Bread-omelet for breakfast with chai, Wada and Kur-kure for snacks and railway biryani for dinner is the way to go. Depending on what part of the country you are traveling through the taste of food will change drastically! But the basics will be the same- In the morning you’ll be woken up to a train attendant shrieking “Breeeead Omleeett” and “Chaaaaaaiii” and for lunch and dinner an attendant will come and get your orders a few hours before lunch/dinner time and deliver them to your seat. Paani bottles are ever-present and so are local snacks, including counter fit Lays.

Go vegetarian as much as possible because you don’t want to have an upset stomach given the washroom situation.

  • Getting your ticket

Indian trains are an experience even before you step on them. You have two ways to get your tickets- one through the ticket counter, other through a sketchy guy from an outside agency. Don’t really know how the sketchy guy works but your name will be on the list, tried and tested (not recommended though). Yes there is a LIST especially on overnight trains, you’ll find this list pasted next to the door of the compartment.

Sketchy guy or not make sure your name is on the list and also check your name and gender on the ticket, because some ( I emphasize on some) ticket collectors may make a scene for the most random reasons specially when your identity proof is a passport. They know you are an easy target to shake a few bucks out of your pocket- yes bribery is a thing on trains too. So best option book in advance, way advance!.

Also make sure you reach the station a while before the departure time, especially if you’re getting on from a major stations, because Indian stations can be confusing! Especially if you are not familiar with the language. They change the platform numbers like it’s no one’s business! So always make sure you check and keep checking your platform number. And if they do change it know that you will have to be ready for a mad dash over crowded connective bridges and through crazy crowds on platforms and also dodge coolies carrying ridiculous amounts of luggage. Also, you might get the chance to reenact the infamous DDLG scene, running alongside a moving train to get in, because being late for a train is not something you can entirely avoid when in India.

  • Bathrooms

A hole on the floor is all you’ve got!  You will also find a sink with the most difficult and complicated faucet you will ever have to use, especially on a moving train. You will need mad balancing skills to even wash your hands.

  • Hygiene

Say what now?

 Cleanliness for the most part is a concept that stands no meaning on these trains. It’s not dead right unbearable, but it’s definitely somewhere up there!

 But one thing I did notice is that certain trains that run through certain states are cleaner than others.

Now sitting here post(-ish) pandemic and with millions of hygiene practices drilled in to my brain, I genuinely can’t imagine how I survived.

  • Sleep

Hoping for a good night’s sleep? Yah keep hoping!! Especially if you get the top most berth. Getting some sleep with all the noise and making sure you don’t fall down, not the most comfortable place to fall asleep. But I surprisingly have the superpower to sleep well on Indian trains, and I prefer the top berth because it’s a little away from the chaos bellow and I even like the sounds and movement of the train.

  • Overcrowded

 Again, there is no such thing!!You reserved a seat and you’re under the impression that you’ll get to sit on the whole seat. Think again! You’ll get your average last minute ticket owners that wants a little space on your seat to beggars, floor sweepers to Hijras asking you for money( in some parts of the country) taking up a little bit of space. But they are all just a beautiful part of the experience.

  • Need a Last minute ticket?

 Hope you like sitting/ sleeping on the floor. I’ve done it a few times (not proud of it though, Okay, maybe a little for surviving). It comes handy when time means more than hygiene.

  • Make friends but keep an eye on anything fishy

Gruesomely long boring train rides can lead to some great lifelong friendships. I’ve had many such encounters and some were life altering. For instance a chance encounter with a Tibetan monk on a train from Agra to Jalpaiguri got me the chance to go to Bhutan back when tourism in Bhutan was not a thing.

But do keep in mind, everyone that is friendly is not your friend.

Yes there are certain trains that run along the great Indian railroad like the Royal Orient that offers its passengers a train ride of a life time with its fancy saloons and sleeping quarters and safe, over the top cuisine. And they are an experience of their own too. But I would choose the noisy second class and its bland vegetable biryani over and over again, because it’s an experience that will give you a taste of what India is really about. And trust me it’s a beautiful journey!

With Love,

To all the friends I’ve lost touch with…

Adulting is hard! Harder than they make it seem, much harder than they make us believe. And while being wrapped up in this crazy haze that is life today and amidst the growing pains, I’ve lost touch with you.

Remember the good old times when we used to be so close, inseparable in some cases. In those moments I never thought even for a split second that time would bring us to this point. A point where we merely message each other on our birthdays and sometimes not even that.

It’s no one’s fault! It’s just how life is!

Once in a while, we sit back and think back of the times gone by, and the memories come gushing in. Memories of you and of the times we spent together and the laughter we shared. And I can feel a warmth fill my heart and a small yet significant smile creep up on me.

Don’t you miss those moments we remember so fondly now, moments of pure joy spent together. Countless hours spent in each other’s company, innocently thinking it’ll last forever.

They say if you really want to stay connected you make time!. But the reality is that in this fast pace day and age, it’s not as easily said than done. Each and every one of us are caught up in our own web, trying and at times struggling to keep ourselves afloat. None of us meant to go away or shut anyone away, certainly I didn’t. We grew up and at the same time Life just happened.

 Life works in mysterious ways don’t you think? It brought us together but also sent us on different paths, different quests, sending us away from each other.

But don’t you dare ever even for second think that I fell out of love with you!!  Don’t you dare think I stopped caring! Because none of us did!

So in my own tiny way I want to send this message to all that I’ve lost touch with ..I love you!!

From the wardrobe of princess Kuweni to that of the boss ladies (and gentlemen of course) of today, the fashion scene of Sri Lanka has changed and evolved drastically throughout history.

This metamorphism happening in the fashion arena of this tiny paradise island is in some cases keeping up with the trends and shifts in the global fashion world and in some instances is in tune to her own beat.

The story of the emergence of clothing in Sri Lanka is unclear but undoubtable the art of dressing has gone through many transformations through time. From the occasional foreign involvement in history and the fashion influx that follows, to the exposure to globalization and mass media, the fashion industry of Sri Lanka today is a melting pot of many traditions and styles from all corners of the world.

With time the fashion movement of Sri Lanka is moving forward at a staggering pace and is starting to flourish as an industry with a cause.  

With the surge of new e-commerce platforms and the inflow of international retail experiences we islanders, are not so behind in playing catching up and embracing what’s “IN” in the global fashion domain.

But whatever trends and Fads that come and go, the Lankan fashion scene will always have a constant, her island culture and her roots.

By today the fashion capital of Sri Lanka is beaming with store fronts bearing the names of international and local high end fashion labels and is home to many fashion events spanned through the year. With exposure to such, the local consumers are getting increasingly conscious about the details of fashion which was not the case a few decades ago.

Not just the influx in to the country but many Lankan based designers and brands have started to make a name for themselves in the international arena, and  slowly but surely Sri Lanka is turning in to a fashion destination giving rise to opportunities for young creatives to blossom and thrive.

When considering the global domain, fashion is divided in to a few segments such as, Haute Couture and Couture, Ready-To-Wear/ Prêt-à-Porter, Diffusion, Bridge and Mass market –The one we know the best!

But when it comes to the Lankan scene these divisions are a little bit blurred. We are yet to embrace fully the concept of fashion brands and designer labels. We are so used to the concept of fast fashion or SMEs when it comes to our fashion needs that they have become what we know and adore.

We still have a long way to go, but here are a few key global trends that Sri Lankan brands should consider embracing: 

Sustainability the authentic way – even though the movement of sustainability and responsible fashion has become a trend of a sort, we islanders have had this concept as a part of our day to day lives throughout generations.( don’t trust me? Go Ask your grandma) but when it comes to everyday fashion and particularly the fast fashion movement we need to embrace sustainability more. Words such as recycling, up cycling and thrifting should be given more importance and should be accessible to people to embrace.

Tech meets Fashion- The global fashion movement in the future seems to be leaning towards increasing tech and fashion collaborations and producing something innovative.

Material revolution– circling back to the concept of sustainability we Lankans should venture in to the depths of the island and its history to find more sustainable and accessible novel materials that will help the local economy as well as the environment.

Bye Bye to fast fashion and hello to individuality- yes we do see a movement of people trying to go against the current of fast fashion and to establish an individuality now a days, but we still have a long way to go!

Metamorphic designs/ utilitarian fashion– By today, fashion is not just an object of beauty, it has much more to do than just the esthetic appeal. From cloths that have solar panels to outfits that can be worn in different ways, metamorphism is “in” folks, and we islanders need to pick up!

 Embracing minimalism- Gone are the days when people thought more was more!

Tradition + Modernity- Need to explore the possibility of merging traditional modern creativity.  We are an artistic bunch, aren’t we?

The fashion industry of this island has many more new and potential avenues that we need to tap into to bring it to a global scale. Also the local brands, designers and influencers need to watch out for the newest trends, movements and shifts that’s happening outside our little island and work on incorporating them in our design process in a way that it will be palatable for the local audience.